On the ferry, a fellow passenger pointed out a steamer in the distance and told Grace it was called Lady of the Lake. Grace explains to Dr. Jordan that there was a quilt pattern of the same name, which she’d previously believed to be named after the poem by Sir Walter Scott. But the pattern didn’t look like a lady or a lake. Grace understood that the boat must have taken its name from the poem, and the quilt had taken its name from the boat since the pattern included a pinwheel design that resembled a steamboat paddle. She explains to Dr. Jordan how this realization gave her a renewed sense of faith because she realized that things could make sense if one pondered them enough.

After Grace and McDermott arrived at Lewiston, they checked into rooms at a tavern. McDermott again tried to force himself on Grace, but she locked him out of her room. In bed, she comforted herself with the thought that in a hundred years she would be dead and no longer worried about the trouble she was in. On the edge of sleep, she saw a vision of a ship’s wake disappearing on the surface of the water. Grace linked this vision to a sensation that her own footsteps were erased, and, as she gave in to the feeling that she never existed, she thought to herself, “It is almost the same as being innocent.”

Grace dreamt that she was walking up to Mr. Kinnear’s house, and, as she approached, lamps turned on in the windows. She felt a longing to go inside. Just as a hand slipped into hers, she awoke to someone knocking on the door.

Analysis: Part X

The account Grace gives of the aftermath of the murders again underscores the horrible behavior of men and the vulnerability of women. Though many ambiguities exist in her tale, according to Grace, McDermott felt empowered after he killed Nancy and Mr. Kinnear and largely took control of the situation. His newfound sense of power emboldened him to make a series of unwanted sexual advances on Grace, placing her in an especially vulnerable position. Although Grace’s account of McDermott’s ferocious sexual advances shows her innocence, the reader also knows that during the trial, McDermott continued to claim that Grace had promised him sexual favors. This charge against Grace largely convinced the public of Grace’s guilt, since they assumed she must have wielded her feminine wiles to seduce McDermott and make him commit the murders. Such an argument results from a profound bias against women, a bias that is, in turn, rooted in a fear of women that stands at the heart of a patriarchal society. McDermott’s repeated attempts sexual violence against Grace once again point to the social inequality between men and women.

A point of ambiguity arises during the carriage scene, when Grace looks to the sky and tries to pray to a God who might not even exist. Although Grace describes the agony involved in this crisis of faith, her attitude toward religion throughout the rest of the novel places the authenticity of her faith in question. Consider the descriptions Grace provided in Part III of her experience in the asylum. The matrons there were all deeply religious. They frequently urged Grace to repent, implying that her apparent madness stemmed from the accumulation of sins. Yet Grace knew full well that she was not insane and that the matrons profoundly misunderstood her condition. Grace also criticized the prison chaplain, who used the Christian language of forgiveness and redemption to manipulate prisoners into confessing. Given these examples of religious criticism, Grace’s appeal to God in Part X seems out of character. It is possible that Grace has authentic faith and that she simply disagrees with how some religious people use their authority to force others to believe. However, it is also possible that Grace inserts this plea as a way to punctuate her story with a moment of crisis that will gain more sympathy from her listener.

The possibility that Grace feigns her appeal to God is supported by the scene on the ferry. Grace describes how she came to understand that the quilt pattern called Lady of the Lake was not named after the poem by Sir Walter Scott but for a boat. She interprets her own process of understanding as a sign that order exists in the world,and that she can indeed continue to have faith. Yet even though Grace sees a “design” in the order of things, the faith she professes here is not explicitly religious. Furthermore, from a storytelling perspective, the scene on the ferry serves as a suspiciously convenient follow-up to the scene in the carriage. If the crisis of faith in the carriage represented the climax of Grace’s life story, then the swift restoration of that faith on the ferry represents the falling action. Grace’s account therefore takes the shape of a story of faith lost and regained, a shape so typical in literature as to be suspicious for real-life experience. In other words, Grace may well have shaped her story into pattern of her own design, one meant to appeal to listeners and gain their sympathy.